CogNovo Research Seminars

The CogNovo Research Seminar series features distinguished researchers from experimental psychology, interactive and creative arts, cognitive neuroscience, the humanities, computational modelling, and cognitive robotics.

The series was facilitated by Pinar Oztop, Vaibhav Tyagi, Thomas R. Colin, Diego S. Maranan, Jacqui Knight, Jack McKay Fletcher, Mihaela Taranu, Guy Edmonds, Ilaria Torre, and Frank Loesche at different times and on behalf of all CogNovo research fellows. Each research fellow was invited to suggest speakers and argue for their potential contribution to the research topic of Cognitive Innovation. The organisational committee then decided on the invitation, invited the speaker to the University of Plymouth, and facilitated further one-to-one meetings between the speakers and researchers at Plymouth. The CogNovo research fellow who had suggested the speaker acted as the host during their time in Plymouth.

Date and time Title Speaker

27 February 2017; 12 pm

The neuroscience of creative ideation Mathias Benedek
Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz
Cancelled: 30 January 2017; 12pm Affect and politics: Toward a critique of affective arrangements Jan Slaby
Freie Universität Berlin
11 October 2016 Psychoacoustics in the hospital – Why all clinicians should study music Joseph J. Schlesinger, MD
Vanderbilt University
18 April 2016 Living computers, Mars simulations and DIY starships: advancing cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration Angelo Vermeulen
Independent Artist
22 February 2016 Beyond words: recognising affective and social signals in speech for socially interactive technology Khiet Truong
University of Twente
7 December 2015 The New Science of Out-of-body Experiences Susan Blackmore
Plymouth University
30 November 2015 Rethinking cognitive flexibility: One, many, more, or whole? Thea Ionescu
Babeş-Bolyai University
cancelled: 2 November 2015 cancelled: Case Studies in Computational Creativity cancelled: Tom de Smedt
University of Antwerp
19 Oct 2015 Incubation in creative problem solving Kenneth Gilhooly
University of Hertfordshire
28 Sep 2015 Creative thinging Lambros Malafouris
University of Oxford
21 Sep 2015 From Small to Large Models: The Era of Massive Data Flow (MDF) Takashi Ikegami
University of Tokyo
15 Jun 2015 How artists create: An empirical study Keith Sawyer
University of North Carolina
18 May 2015 Creativity: Understanding and Enhancing Idea Generation and Idea Selection Performance Simone Ritter
Radboud University Nijmegen
14 May 2015 The Neurobiology of Beauty Semir Zeki
University College London
20 Apr 2015 Mutual Beliefs Desires Intentions Actions and Consequences (MBDIAC): Towards a Computational Framework for 'Intelligent' Interactive Agents Roger Moore
University of Sheffield
30 Mar 2015 Predictive Coding Mark Sprevak
University of Edinburgh
16 Mar 2015 The role of imagined alternatives to reality in reasoning about intentions Ruth Byrne
Trinity College Dublin
02 Mar 2015 Personal knowledge: embodied, extended or animate? Tim Ingold
University of Aberdeen
19 Jan 2015 Artistically Skilled Embodied Agents Patrick Tresset
University of London
01 Dec 2014 Testing Theories of Creative Cognition with New Assessments Mark A. Runco
University of Georgia
17 Nov 2014 On the role of the Multi-Level and Multi-Scale Organization of Behaviour: Evidence from Evolutionary Robotics Experiments Stefano Nolfi
CNR, Rome
03 Nov 2014 Null Hypothesis Significance Testing, False Negatives, and the Illusion of Unconscious Learning David Shanks
University College London
13 Oct 2014 The paradigm of distributed creativity Vlad Glaveanu
Aalborg University
28 Jul 2014 A Complexity of Embodiment(s): Dissolving boundaries between bodies, environments and artefacts Martyn Woodward
Plymouth University
21 Jul 2014 Looking at pictures Michael Punt
Plymouth University
14 Jul 2014 "Darling, I am going to tell you something that I swore never to tell anyone - I have the gift of ubiquity.” Mike Phillips
Plymouth University
07 Jul 2014 Robot instruction Guido Bugmann
Plymouth University
30 Jun 2014 Developmental Robotics and Embodied Cognition Angelo Cangelosi
Plymouth University
16 Jun 2014 Improvising Consciousness Josephine Anstey
University at Buffalo
09 Jun 2014 Exploring the Unconscious Mind through Immersive Virtual Reality Sylvia Pan
University College London
02 June 2014 Responses in the Rate Domain Chris Harris
Plymouth University


The neuroscience of creative ideation

Mathias Benedek, University of Graz, Austria

Creative thinking is the source of amazing novel ideas and original products, which enrich everyday life and represent valuable contributions to arts and sciences. But how does the brain produce creative ideas? This question has been addressed in cognitive neuroscience research by examining the brain activation during idea generation and artistic performance using different techniques such as EEG and FMRI. This presentation introduces some of the key findings in this field: What is the functional role of alpha activity during creative thought? What is the brain activation associated with the generation of novel representations? How do large-scale brain networks interact during creative performance? The findings from this research have implications for a deeper understanding of the attentional mechanisms and memory processes that are characteristic for creative thought.
Host: Frank Loesche

Affect and politics: Toward a critique of affective arrangements

Jan Slaby, Freie Universität Berlin

Not only the recent rise of right-wing populism across Europe and the U.S. has demonstrated the impact strategically generated, amplified and distributed affect can have on political decision-making. With current network-based, user-driven media practices, interpersonal (relational) affect has found new channels for its dissemination, but also – more fundamentally – new generative and formative environments. Affect is essentially produced in socio-technical assemblages, a process that also gives rise to specific subject positions and thus, potentially, new types of political subjects. This calls for analysis and informed critique.
A continental philosophy- and cultural studies-inspired perspective on affect will be the starting point of the talk (the Spinoza-Deleuze tradition – see Massumi 2002; Gregg & Seigworth 2010). This will put in relation to recent work on situated affectivity in the philosophy of cognitive science (Griffiths & Scarantino 2009; Colombetti & Krueger 2015). Within this theoretical framework, concrete instances of political affect and politically salient affect subject-formation can then be analyzed (cf. Protevi 2009). A focus will be on new media and on what might be called ‘affective arrangements’: material-discursive ensembles at specific sites of social life in which affect is channeled, bundled and intensified in recurring ways (cf. Massumi 2015; Slaby 2016).
Host: Eugenia Stambiliev

  • Colombetti, G., & Krueger, J. (2015). Scaffoldings of the Affective Mind. Philosophical Psychology 28(8), 1157-1176.
  • Gregg, M., & Seigworth, G. J. (2010) (Eds.). The Affect Theory Reader. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Griffiths, P. E., & Scarantino, A. (2009). Emotions in the Wild. In: Robbins, P., & Aydede, M. (eds.). The Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition (pp. 437-453). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Massumi, B. (2015). Politics of Affect. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Massumi, B. (2002). Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Protevi, J. (2009). Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Slaby, J. (2016). Mind Invasion: Situated Affectivity and the Corporate Life Hack. Frontiers in Psychology 7, 2016.

Psychoacoustics in the hospital – Why all clinicians should study music

Joseph J. Schlesinger, MD (Vanderbilt University)

The acoustic environment in the hospital is manifold: verbal communication, medical alarms, environmental noise, and music. While alarms can alert clinicians to patients’ demise, we are limiting ourselves on understanding how the acoustic environment helps and hurts both patients and clinicians.
Alarms sound frequently and 85-99% of cases do not require clinical intervention. As alarm frequency increases, clinicians develop ‘alarm fatigue’ resulting in desensitization, missed alarms, and delayed responses. This is dangerous for the patient when an alarm-provoking event requires clinical intervention but is inadvertently missed. Alarm fatigue can also cause clinicians to: set alarm parameters outside effective ranges to decrease alarm occurrence; decrease alarm volumes to an inaudible level; silence frequently insignificant alarms; and be unable to distinguish alarm urgency. Since false alarm and clinically insignificant alarm rates reach 85-99%, practitioners distrust alarms and manifest alarm fatigue. Yet, failure to respond to the infrequent clinically significant alarm may lead to poor patient outcomes.
Music in the clinical space, such as the operating room, can mask the sound of auditory alarms. Control of the acoustic environment has shifted from the anesthesiologist to the surgeon. While recent case reports have shown the danger of music in the operating room, it is a modifiable risk factor. Music may improve mood and efficiency of surgical care. Dynamic control of music, integrated with patient monitoring, may improve the positive predictive value of alarms and decrease the total sound exposure.
The importance of understanding music theory and music perception & cognition is paramount in improving patient monitoring and safety.
The goals will be evident in:

  • Diagnosing cardiac dysrhythmias through understanding the 2-3 clave in Afro-Cuban music
  • Exploring information transfer in alarms by witnessing "trading fours" in jazz improvisation
  • Sensing the emotional aspect of equipment alarms via opera
  • Improving the positive predictive value of alarms by modifying music in the operating room
  • Discussing amusia and absolute pitch perception through pulse oximetry
  • New horizons of how songwriting improves neuropsychological outcomes of post-traumatic stress disorder

Host: Michael Sonne Kristensen

Living computers, Mars simulations and DIY starships: advancing cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration

Angelo Vermeulen (TED Senior Fellow, Independent Artist)

Angelo Vermeulen will present a series of art and science projects in which global communities are actively engaged in prototyping the future. This includes the installation art projects Biomodd and Seeker, and the NASA-funded HI-SEAS Mars simulation program. He will focus on co-creation, bottom-up design and alternative leadership strategies. Vermeulen has a multidisciplinary practice encompassing art, science and engineering, and has been working with communities in different corners of the world for almost 10 years. He is a founding member of SEAD (Space Ecologies Art and Design), an international collective of artists, scientists, engineers and activists. His latest TED Talk about the Seeker project has garnered over a million views.
Angelo Vermeulen is a space systems researcher, biologist, artist and community organizer. In his work he ties together technological, ecological, and social systems through group engagement and collaboration. He has been faculty at LUCA School of Visual Arts in Ghent, the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Parsons The New School for Design in New York, and the University of the Philippines Open University in Los Baños. In 2012 he was a Michael Kalil Endowment for Smart Design Fellow at Parsons, and in 2013 became TED Senior Fellow.
Host: Diego Maranan

Beyond words: recognising affective and social signals in speech for socially interactive technology

Khiet Truong (University of Twente)

When we interact with each other, not only the content of the words matter (what we say), but also the manner in which these words are spoken matter (how we speak), as well as the body language. Non-verbal behavior plays a key role in communicating affective and social information in human-human interaction. With the increasing acceptance of technology in our daily lives, such as virtual agents and robots, the need for developing technology that can sense and interpret human affect and social signals increases as well.
In this talk, I will discuss what kinds of non-verbal behaviors (mainly in speech communication, for example, laughter, backchannel behavior) can be important in human-agent interaction. How can we model these non-verbal behaviors for affective and social human-agent interaction? Our starting point is human-human interaction: how do humans display affect and social behavior? I will present some results of our studies on analysis of affective and social signals in speech and show how these results can inform the development of socially interactive agents.

Khiet Truong is an assistant professor with the Human Media Interaction (HMI) group at the University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands. She works in the fields of affective computing and social signal processing. Her main research interests lie in analysing and understanding emotionally expressive and social behaviors in interactions between humans, as well as in interactions between humans and virtual/physical agents (robots). Using this understanding, her aim is to develop socially intelligent and affective technology. She is particularly interested in paralinguistics: how do people talk in interaction and how can we develop technology that can automatically analyse and interpret the way people talk? At HMI, she is and was involved in several large EU-projects such as SQUIRREL, TERESA, and SSPNet.
Host: Ilaria Torre

The new science of out-of-body experiences

Susan Blackmore (Plymouth University; Visiting Professor)

How can we explain the common experience of seeming to leave one’s body and view the world from a location outside it? Does something really leave the body? If so, what is it? If not, how can these vivid, life-changing experiences be explained? After a dramatic, two hour long experience as a student 45 years ago I researched and wrote books on OBEs and near-death experiences but still could not understand them – nor could I dismiss them as ‘just’ hallucinations, or ‘only’ fantasies as many scientists have done. For decades I stopped working on the problem but now at last we know that OBEs can be induced by stimulating the temporoparietal junction, a brain area involved in constructing the sense of self. And using virtual reality and full body illusions we are beginning to find answers – though lots of difficult questions still remain.
Susan Blackmore is a Visiting Professor at Plymouth University. Her research interests include consciousness, out of body experiences and memetic theory. Her talk will discuss how disturbances of different aspects of the body schema give rise to unusual body-related experiences.
Host: Tara Zaksaite

Rethinking cognitive flexibility: One, many, more, or whole?

Thea Ionescu (Babeş-Bolyai University)

The ability to behave flexibly in response to situational demands is often considered a hallmark of intelligence (Boroditsky, Neville, Karns, Markman, & Spivey, 2010). It is assumed that this flexible behavior reflects a flexible cognitive system, but there is no agreement so far about what exactly cognitive flexibility is (Ionescu, 2012). In this talk we will analyse several accounts of cognitive flexibility and try to decide whether it is about: 1) one precise ability (like shifting), 2) many abilities or types (like the one involved in executive functions and the one involved in creativity), 3) more than individual abilities (like a more complex ability that includes several subcomponents), or 4) a holistic quality (i.e., a property of the cognitive system). In the end, we will conjecture that in order to fully understand cognitive flexibility we may need to include an embodied perspective in our endeavor.
Thea Ionescu is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Babeş-Bolyai University, Romania. Her research as an experimental and developmental psychologist focuses on cognitive flexibility, categorization and embodied cognition.
Host: Mihaela Taranu

Incubation in creative problem solving

Ken Gilhooly (University of Hertfordshire & Brunel University London)

Creative problem solving, in which novel solutions are required, has often been seen as involving unconscious processes. Other explanations are also possible in terms of intermittent work or beneficial forgetting and weakening of misleading sets. We outline some recent studies of divergent thinking using the Alternative Uses task that we have carried out regarding immediate v. delayed incubation and the effects of resource competition from interpolated activities. A further study examined a possible link between thought suppression and incubation. These studies tend to support a role for unconscious work as against intermittent conscious work , forgetting or set weakening. What form unconscious work might take, including spreading activation as a candidate unconscious process in incubation, will be discussed.
Prof. Kenneth Gilhooly is Professor of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. His research interests include decision making, creative thinking and creative problem solving with publications related to the effects of incubation on divergent thinking.
Host: Tara Zaksaite

Creative thinging

Lambros Malafouris (University of Oxford)

Humans are organisms of a creative sort. We make new things that scaffold the ecology of our minds, shape the boundaries of our thinking and form new ways to engage and make sense of the world. That is, we are creative ‘thingers’. In this talk I shall be asking about what it means to say of human beings that they are producers of forms and things? Trying to answer that I will adopt the perspective of Material Engagement Theory and introduce the notion ‘thinging’ to articulate and draw attention to the kind of cognitive life instantiated in acts of thinking and feeling with, through and about things. I will focus more specifically on Creative thinging, or creative material engagement, exploring the importance of thinging for understanding our species unique capacity for inventiveness.
Lambros Malafouris is a Research and Teaching Fellow in Creativity, Cognition and Material Culture at University of Oxford. His research interests lie in the archaeology of mind, the philosophy and semiotics of material culture, and the anthropology of the brain-artefact interface.
Host: Jacqui Knight

From Small to Large Models: The Era of Massive Data Flow (MDF)

Prof. Takashi Ikegami (University of Tokyo)

A synthesized world model in a modern-day computer is much richer than the models of 20 years ago. Now, a great deal of data can be acquired in various fields, and the world presented by the data becomes much richer than artificial ones. Analysis and synthesis on the vast real-time dimension of the data as well as massive data flow of long time scale have become possible. This is what we call the era of Massive Data Flow (MDF). We used the term MDF to imply a large dataset required to analyze and a large generative model required to understand real world complexity. We noticed that the absence of adequate theories and methods of MDF were striking as well as the lack of epistemology accounts for the MDF in science. MDF revealed to us that small model approaches do not work well, and we were required to develop new ways of analysis and concepts of larger model approaches. For example, the Web is one of the most complex artificial systems that we know. We analyzed Web dynamics as a larger model, comparing it to small size models, such as neural networks, to understand “ What is life? ” in terms of information flow, default mode network, bursting behavior, etc. In other words, we examined the maximalistic model/thinking for life by creating a larger model. By extending models of artificial life into the MDF world, we can argue for what types of new technology and concepts we can develop to understand life in the artificial and real world.
Prof. Takashi Ikegami is head of the Ikegami Lab at University of Tokyo. His work focuses about Artificial Life as a field of study, and his interdisciplinary approach on living technology.
Host: Christos Melidis

How artists create: An empirical study

Prof. Keith Sawyer (University of North Carolina)

There has been surprisingly little empirical study of how professional artists develop their creative ideas, and no empirical study of teaching and learning in MFA programs. This paper reports on an ethnographic interview study with nine adult students enrolled in full-time degree programs toward the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in painting, the terminal degree for visual artists in the U.S. The first goal was to explore the process whereby these student artists create the works to be displayed in their required MFA show, and the unifying idea that will be the topic of their written MFA thesis. The second goal was to explore how the curriculum of the MFA program helped these artist-students learn how to create. I analyze these empirical findings using contemporary theories of the creative process and of creativity and learning.
Hosts: Pinar Oztop & Vaibhav Tyagi

Creativity: Understanding and Enhancing Idea Generation and Idea Selection Performance

Simone Ritter (Radboud University Nijmegen)

From the first wheel to the latest microprocessor, creative ideas have continuously enriched our lives. Creativity is not limited to the realms of greatness, but can also be found in daily life, for example, when one has to accomplish a task in a new way or when one has to adapt to changes. In today’s world of rapid changes and increasing complexity, optimizing creative potential is of critical importance. In this current talk, I aim to broaden our understanding of the cognitive processes and structures that contribute to the generation of creative ideas and, specifically, to shed light on the question how creative thinking can be enhanced. Hereby, I will focus on unconscious processes and diversifying experiences as a means to enhance the generation of creative ideas. Moreover, I will focus on idea selection – an essential but overlooked step in the creative process. Contrary to previous beliefs, people perform sub-optimally (not better than chance) at selecting creative ideas. They tend to favor the selection of mainstream rather than creative ideas. In this current talk, I will present preliminary findings indicating that an intuitive processing style enhances idea selection performance. In addition, I will elaborate on how scientific research on idea selection can be improved.
Host: Frank Loesche

The Neurobiology of Beauty

Prof. Semir Zeki (University College London)

In one of the most famous definitions of beauty, the Anglo-Irish philosopher and statesman wrote that, “Beauty is, for the greater part, a property of bodies that acts mechanically upon the mind through the intervention of the senses". Of the three pillars of that definition, two are related to the brain (mind and intervention of the senses). I propose to explore Burke's definition from a neurobiological perspective and, through it, propose a single fundamental and brain-based characteristic to the experience of beauty, one which is independent of source (i.e. whether musical or visual or mathematical ).
While the experience of musical and visual beauty is derived from sensory sources, the experience of mathematical beauty, regarded by Plato as the highest form of beauty, is derived from a highly cognitive source. And yet the experience of all three kinds of beauty correlates with activity in the same part of the emotional brain, the medial orbito-frontal cortex, a brain region that is also associated with the experience of reward and pleasure.
I will put forward the argument that all three experiences are rooted in their biological significance and hence that, odd though this may seem, mathematical beauty is also an indicator of how the world is represented in our brain.

Mutual Beliefs Desires Intentions Actions and Consequences (MBDIAC): Towards a Computational Framework for 'Intelligent' Interactive Agents

Prof. Roger K. Moore (University of Sheffield(

Recent years have seen increasing interest in the potential benefits of 'intelligent' autonomous agents such as robots. Honda's Asimo humanoid robot, iRobot's Roomba robot vacuum cleaner and Google's driverless cars have very much ignited the public's imagination, and expectations for the future are high. However, there is a long way to go before autonomous systems reach the level of capabilities required for even the simplest of tasks involving multimodal human-robot interaction. Of course the fields of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Systems have made great strides in this area, and emphasis has shifted from abstract high-level rule-based approaches to embodied architectures whose behaviours are grounded in real physical environments and acquired using advanced forms of machine learning. What is still missing, however, is an overarching theory of intelligent interactive behaviour that is capable of informing the system-level design of autonomous agents. This talk addresses these issues and shows how, by starting from very basic first principles, it is possible to derive a rich conceptual framework for modelling complex interactive systems. Referred to as 'MBDIAC' (Mutual Beliefs Desires Intentions Actions and Consequences), the framework not only provides a remarkably symmetric architecture for linking core behaviours such as perception, action, interaction and emotion, but also exhibits striking parallels with recent discoveries in the field of cognitive neuroscience.
Host: Ilaria Torre

Predictive coding

Mark Sprevak (University of Edinburgh)

Predictive coding has been described as the best kept secret in cognitive neuroscience. Despite the excitement, it is not entirely clear what predictive coding is, or why it is so important or revolutionary. In this talk, I use an existing framework from computational explanation to tentatively explore what predictive coding is, or might be, and why it has got many people excited.
Host: Jack McKay Fletcher

The role of imagined alternatives to reality in reasoning about intentions

Prof. Ruth Byrne (Trinity College Dublin)

People often imagine how things could have turned out differently ‘if only…’. They create counterfactual alternatives to reality to explain the past and prepare for the future. Counterfactual thoughts also modulate emotions such as regret, and support moral judgments such as blame. The cognitive processes that compute counterfactuals mutate aspects of the mental representation of reality to create an imagined alternative. In this talk I discuss recent evidence that counterfactual thoughts influence judgments about other people’s intentions. I describe a new series of experiments that examines children’s counterfactual thoughts and their inferences about intentions. The ability to compare a representation of reality to a counterfactual alternative develops throughout childhood. It contributes to reasoning about other people’s beliefs. The experiments test the idea that counterfactual thoughts are a prerequisite for understanding that other people may have false beliefs. They introduce a novel way to examine reasoning about other people’s reasons for their actions.
Host: Raluca Briazu

Personal knowledge: embodied, extended or animate?

Prof. Tim Ingold (University of Aberdeen)

In this talk, I shall take a fresh look at what Michael Polanyi called ‘personal knowledge’, of the kind that adheres so closely to the skilled practitioner that it cannot be rendered in propositional form. Many subsequent theorists have taken such knowledge, and the practice that flows from it, to be embodied. Others have argued that it is situated not only in the body but also in the array of extra-somatic resources that are enrolled in the course of practical activity. What the languages of both embodiment and extension fail to recognise, however, is that bodies and other things are fundamentally animate. I argue that knowing and doing are grounded not in a network of interactions between brains, bodies and artefacts, but in the correspondence of animate movements, on the one hand of practitioners, and on the other, of the lively materials in which they are immersed and with which they work. In this, artefacts play a role not as interactants but as transducers, converting the kinetic quality of the gesture from the realm of bodily kinaesthesia to that of material flux. It is in this conversion that material cultural forms are generated and sustained.

  • Polanyi, M. 1966. The Tacit Dimension. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Clark, A. 1997. Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Marchand, T. H. J. (ed.) 2010. Making Knowledge: Explorations of the Indissoluble Relation Between Mind, Body and Environment. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell; London: Royal Anthropological Institute.
  • Pallasmaa, J. 2009. The Thinking Hand: Existential and Embodied Wisdom in Architecture. Chichester: Wiley.
  • Ingold, T. 2013. Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. Abingdon: Routledge, Chapter 8, ‘Telling by hand’.

Host: Jacqui Knight

Artistically Skilled Embodied Agents

Patrick Tresset (University of London)

Patrick Tresset is a French artist and scientist who investigates human artistic activity and our relation to machines, in particular our relations with robotic entities. In the context of his art practice, Patrick uses robotics to create autonomous robotic entities that are evocative representations of the artist, and in a certain manner a representation of himself. His robots are based on research from robotics, computer vision, artificial intelligence and cognitive computing. Until 2013, Patrick co-directed the AIkon-II project with Prof. Frederic Fol Leymarie. The AIkon-II project investigated the observational sketching activity through computational modeling and robotics, and was funded in part with a research grant from the Leverhulme trust. Patrick also established the creative robotics module taught to post-graduate students at Goldsmiths as part of the MFA Computational Arts programme. Patrick is a Senior fellow at the Zukunftskolleg, University of Konstanz in Germany and is currently a visiting research fellow at Goldsmiths University of London, United Kingdom. Patrick's work has been internationally exhibited in solo and group shows, in association with major museums such as Victoria & Albert Museum, Science Museum, Tate Modern, the Pompidou Center, Museum of Israel and events such as Ars Electronica Festival, London Art Fair, Kinetica Art Fair and Istanbul biennial. Patrick will talk about his artistic and research work.
Host: Thomas R. Colin

Testing Theories of Creative Cognition with New Assessments

Prof. Mark A. Runco (University of Georgia, USA)

Creativity has become an enormously very popular topic. No wonder, given its connections to innovation, problem solving, technological advance, education, adaptation, invention, entrepreneurship, and health. At the same time, the neurosciences have finally targeted creativity. There is a growing body of research using fMRI and other advanced apparatus to better understand the bases of creativity. Not surprisingly, all of the attention and the influx of data have altered many of the existing theories of creativity and initiated some new ones. This presentation will explore and compare a range of theories of creative cognition. The basics of each theory will be covered, as will as the empirical efforts designed to test the new and modified theories of creative cognition. Interestingly, many new assessments have been developed to support the more recent empirical efforts. These too will be reviewed and compared. Host: Raluca Briazu

On the role of the Multi-Level and Multi-Scale Organization of Behaviour: Evidence from Evolutionary Robotics Experiments

Stefano Nolfi (ICST, Rome)

I will claim that behavioural and cognitive capacities in embodied agents can be properly characterized as dynamical processes, originating from the agents/environmental interactions, displaying a multi-level and multi-scale organization. More specifically I will review a series of evolutionary robotics experiments that illustrate how the multi-level nature of these systems can enable: generalization processes that operate at the level of entire behaviours, the progressive expansion of the robots behavioural skills, and behavioural compositionality. Host: Christos Melidis

Null Hypothesis Significance Testing, False Negatives, and the Illusion of Unconscious Learning

Prof. David Shanks (University College London)

The scientific community has witnessed growing concern about the high rate of false positives and unreliable results within the psychological literature, but the harmful impact of false negatives has been largely ignored. I will provide an illustration of this by means of a review of studies of unconscious or implicit processing, and demonstrate how Null Hypothesis Significance Testing can contribute to the reporting of false negatives. Research on implicit processes seeks evidence of above-chance performance on some implicit behavioral measure at the same time as chance-level performance (that is, a null result) on an explicit measure of awareness. A systematic review of 73 studies of contextual cuing, a popular implicit learning paradigm, involving 181 statistical analyses of awareness tests, reveals how underpowered studies can lead to failure to reject a false null hypothesis. Among the studies that reported sufficient information, the meta-analytic effect size across awareness tests was dz = 0.31, 95% CI [0.24, 0.37]. The unusually large number of positive results in this literature cannot be explained by selective publication. Instead, the analyses demonstrate that these tests are typically insensitive and underpowered to detect medium to small, but true, effects in awareness tests.
Host: Tara Zaksaite

The paradigm of distributed creativity

Vlad Petre Glaveanu (Aalborg University)

Creativity is mainly defined as a psychological process leading to novel and valuable products, from great achievements in the arts and sciences (the paradigm of the genius) to everyday life creations by each and every individual (which are creative mainly for the person). This talk will propose and develop a sociocultural perspective on creativity that considers it a psycho-socio-material process, grounded not within the cognition, personality or biology of isolated individuals but within action, social practice, and networks of relationships. The paradigm of distributed creativity builds on cultural and development psychology (e.g., Vygotsky), ecological psychology (e.g., Gibson), and developments within cognitive science (e.g., Hutchins). This emerging paradigm challenges old frameworks within the psychology of creativity such as the four P’s (Rhodes, 1961) – person, product, process, and press – and reconsiders them from a different epistemological position reflected in a new vocabulary, as the inter-relation between actors, audiences, actions, artefacts, and affordances (the five A’s; Glaveanu, 2013). The presentation will end with a few methodological considerations, introducing recent research on creativity using subjective cameras as part of Subjective Evidence-Based Ethographies (SEBE; Lahlou, 2011), a method with great potential for unpacking the distributed nature of creative acts.
Host: Pinar Oztop

A Complexity of Embodiment(s): Dissolving boundaries between bodies, environments and artefacts

Martyn Woodward (Plymouth University)

In its most general sense, the notion of 'embodiment' -a mind (or more precisely cognition) rooted within the development, functioning and sensory motor kinaesthetic activity of the body immersed within an environment (Johnson, 2009)- has popularised the humanities, cognitive sciences and the arts. The term 'embodiment' has come to mean, epistemologically and ontologically at least, very different things across these disciplines depending upon the status of a central entity: what we may understand as the body. We can take the view of the body as a functional tool that extends the neuroplasticity of the developing brain into the environment (Chalmers and Clark, 2008). Or of the body as a developing multi-sensory organism that is structurally and historically coupled to an environment (Varela< em>et al, 1993). Or disregard the body altogether as a stumbling block that unnecessarily separates 'internal' development and experience from 'external' processes of the environment (Merleau-Ponty, 1964), and focus attention rather upon the very creative processes, forces and objects that shape the body, extending the physical body itself into its environment.
How we understand the body changes what we delimit as 'embodied', more importantly it structures how may begin to describe aspects of mind, such as cognition and perception. If the environment is inseparable from the body is it not necessarily 'of' the body, and vice-versa, and how does the environment inform the development of an embodied cognition? Through taking an excursion into how notions of the body, and in turn 'embodiment', are understood within the arts, the sciences, the cognitive sciences, philosophy and the humanities we will aim to reveal the multiplicity of such a concept. As such, we will not be attempting to mark out a definitive account of the body, nor of embodiment itself, or even cognition, rather we will lay out this multiplicity of understandings to reveal different ways of thinking about the very complex and slippery terms.

Looking On: Images (2) Image Archaeology

Prof. Michael Punt (Plymouth University)

Following on from our discussion of Joseph Wright’s painting, Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump, in which we considered the formal qualities of the image in the context of wider discussions of science and technology in the c18th I would like us to consider an “image” from the early period of cinema.
I propose that we look at a short film from 1904 and try to understand it on its own terms to see what it might tell us about human cognition as contingent on, among other determinants, science, technology and entertainment.

“Darling, I am going to tell you something that I swore never to tell anyone I have the gift of ubiquity.” [1]

Mike Phillips (Plymouth University)

Sabine Lemurier’s (et al) prophetic exploration of the transgressions and trauma that emerge in the shift to a culture where everyone and everything is connected should be a warning to us all.
For Sabine had the gift of ubiquity. The inevitable moral decay of Sabine’s multiple-self destructive tendencies in Marcel Aymé’s tale reflects a historic trauma in our near-future condition - what happens to individual and social behaviour when we are connected to everything, everywhere, all of the time?
For Sabine the potential of having everything everywhere imploded when her voracious appetite, without the restraint of social and moral norms to govern her behaviour, collapsed under the strain of ubiquity.
For us, who can be everywhere all of the time, the familiarity of the far away so close may breed contempt and disdain. That blue marble, once so distant and shiny, now fills our peripheral vision.
This presentation explores’s research developing ‘instruments’ or provocative prototypes and practises that, through the use of data, enhance our understanding of the world and our impact on it. It explores a range of transdisciplinary strategies and projects to manifest complex ecologies – to make the invisible that surrounds us - visible.
The presentation explores the use of networked instruments to harvest data to enhance our understanding of the world. Not through an algorithmic definition of what certain scientific values mean, but through an active negotiation that reveals the ‘temporal’ ebb and flow of environmental factors which manifest an ‘invisible’ fabric that allows us to ‘feel’ things that normally lie outside of our normal frame of reference.
Through the manifestation of material, immaterial and imaginary worlds there is a chance that we can bring the landscape, which is by definition, unreachable and out there, just a little closer, no longer in our peripheral vision but in the everywhere we are.

  • 1: Aymé, M. Sabine Women, in The Man Who Walked Through Walls. Translated by Sophie Lewis. Pushkin Press, London. 2012, pp. 29.

Robot instruction

Guido Bugmann (Plymouth University)

Human brains can be programmed through verbal instructions. This capability is used in many aspects of life, but there is almost no research on its mechanisms. This presentation reports on an experiment designed to measure the speed of the programming process. A model inspired by properties of the attentional blink is proposed that explains the data. The model is abstract, but helps to determine the distribution of learning times, which should then constrain more detailed models.

Developmental Robotics and Embodied Cognition

Angelo Cangelosi (Plymouth University)

Growing theoretical and experimental research on action and language processing and on number learning and space representation clearly demonstrates the role of embodiment in cognition and language and symbol processing. In psychology and neuroscience this evidence constitutes the basis of embodied cognition, also known as grounded cognition (Pezzulo et al. 2012). In robotics, these studies have important implications for the design of linguistic capabilities in cognitive agents and robots for human-robot communication, and have led to the new interdisciplinary approach of Developmental Robotics (Cangelosi & Schlesinger 2014). During the talk we will present developmental robotics models and experiments on the embodiment biases in early word acquisition studies, on word order cues for lexical development and number and space interaction effects. The presentation will also discuss the implications for the “symbol grounding problem” (Cangelosi, 2012) and how embodied robots can help addressing the issue of embodied cognition and the grounding of symbol manipulation use on sensorimotor intelligence.

  • Cangelosi A. (2012). Solutions and open challenges for the symbol grounding problem. International Journal of Signs and Semiotic Systems, 1(1), 49-54 (with commentaries)
  • Cangelosi A, Schlesinger M (to appear, 2015). Developmental Robotics: From Babies to Robots. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Pezzulo G., Barsalou L.W., Cangelosi A., Fischer M.H., McRae K, Spivey M.J. (2011). The mechanics of embodiment: a dialog on embodiment and computational modelling. Frontiers in Psychology, 2(5), 1-21

Improvising Consciousness

Josephine Anstey (University at Buffalo)

Improvising Consciousness is a performance lecture that purports to be a scholarly account of human cognition from 2.5M BCE – 3,000 CE. This work of creative non-fiction/science fiction critiques existing theories that equate human intelligence with language, men, and rationality and instead focuses on analogical- and visually-based cognitive processes. It is an imaginative exercise that asks, "Can we get away from our quotidian sense of self, dramatically, imaginatively, performatively?"
Josephine Anstey , Associate Professor, Dept of Media tudy, University at Buffalo, the lecture is given by Jennifer Arnstay, Professor of Material and Analogical Eco-Cognition visiting from an "unspecified time and place."

Exploring the Unconscious Mind through Immersive Virtual Reality

Sylvia Pan (University College London)

Research has shown that people tend to react realistically to virtual stimuli despite the fact that they consciously know that those stimuli were artificially generated. In particular, in an interactive Immersive Virtual Environment (IVE) where the participant’s physical position is tracked and the visual/auditory displays are generated according to the position and behaviour of the participants, their reaction is highly realistic. We have demonstrated this with several experiments in our CAVE-like system where participants’ reaction was studied through questionnaire, physiological, and most importantly, behavioural data. This has opened new research revenues in deploying the value of IVE in the study of social and moral psychology concerning how the unconscious mind drives people’s behaviour. I will describe two experiments: in one we observe bystander responses to a violent incident; in the other, we study reactions of participants when confronted with a moral dilemma which involves killing or saving lives. The use of IVE in these studies provided a stable and flexible, yet realistic experience, and very importantly eliminated ethical concerns when used for morality related topics.

Responses in the Rate Domain

Prof. Chris Harris (Plymouth University)

In cognitive science, a popular view of decision-making is that a response is made when the accumulation of information over time reaches a threshold or confidence level. This is a stochastic ‘diffusion’ process and typically viewed as optimal Bayesian reasoning, where the accumulation of information reflects updating of priors. In experiments with a single choice (simple RT), the probability distribution of the time to make a decision, and hence reaction time (RT) is given by the inverse Gaussian (Wald) distribution. This can be extended to multiple choices using numerical computation. These multi-parameter distributions have been claimed to fit observed reaction time data, but these claims are heavily dependent on fitting highly skewed distributions in the time domain.
In a separate literature, the study of saccadic eye movements has revealed that the distribution of simple RTs is not inverse Gaussian, but very close to the reciprocal Normal distribution; that is, the reciprocal of RT (which we call ‘rate’) is near-Normal. This cannot be explained by a pure diffusion process. We recently explored the rate distribution for manual 2 alternative choice RTs, and find a similar near-Normality – and definitely not inverse Gaussian. This phenomenon has been completely missed in the cognitive science literature, probably because of historical precedent and the intuitiveness of time-domain analysis.
It appears that rate (reciprocal RT) is the more fundamental biological variable in RT experiments - indeed, in the time domain, the reciprocal Normal is so skewed it does not even have a finite mean. But what does this mean for decision-making? We draw parallels to the animal literature and argue that it is rate of reward that is being optimised. We explore the peculiar properties of optimising rate when there are multiple choices, including the matching law, time discounting, and the question of whether binary decisions are an illusion - an artefact of time-domain analysis.